The Bengals typically are a team that heavily relies on its veteran presence, and it is unusual to see them cut one of their more experienced players.
However, with Marvin Lewis likely on the hot seat and the draft classes of 2017 and 2018 providing a huge influx of young talent, it is getting harder and harder to keep the young guys off the field.
There are several Bengals veterans that, if they are outplayed by a younger guy in training camp, they may end up losing their roster spot to that younger player. After two rough seasons, the Bengals can’t afford to be complacent anymore.
1. Michael Johnson
Johnson showed some added value last season when he showed an ability to rush the passer from the interior. However, after adding Andrew Brown, Chris Baker and Sam Hubbard, the Bengals defensive line room is looking very crowded.
Johnson will have to show that he is still an asset as a pass rusher to justify the Bengals keeping so many defensive linemen. Of course, it also depends on the young players looking like they are ready to play early on.
2. C.J. Uzomah
What is saving Uzomah’s roster life is the fact that the Bengals haven’t spent many resources on tight ends in the past several drafts. They drafted Mason Schreck with nearly the last pick in the draft, but he always looked like more of a practice squad player.
Unless Schreck or one of the undrafted free agent tight ends takes a big step forward, there will not be much competition for Uzomah, and it seems unlikely that the Bengals would go into the season with only two tight ends, even if Ryan Hewitt functions like one. So if another tight end has progressed considerably, then Uzomah will have to ball out to retain his spot, but otherwise, he looks to be a roster lock.
3. Ryan Hewitt
A lot of NFL teams don’t carry a fullback at all, and it is possible the Bengals follow that trend. Since he signed his contract extension, Hewitt’s snap percentage has gone down each year. He doesn’t offer much other than blocking, and it is unknown how much he will be used there as he wasn’t utilized as much the past two years.
Drafting Mixon was also an interesting step as a running back that didn’t run much from under center if at all in college and rarely had a fullback leading the way. Depending on how Bill Lazor wants to run the offense, Hewitt may be looking for work this September.
4. KeiVarae Russell
Russell was a third-round draft pick by the Chiefs, who ended up cutting and allowed the Bengals to scoop him off the waiver wire. Since then, he has barely stepped onto the field, certainly not enough to give us an idea of how good he really is.
With the Bengals drafting two corners and a safety, the defensive back room is really crowded, and there will be three to four players fighting for one spot. The fact that Russell played so rarely seems to indicate what the Bengals may think about him, and that makes his roster chances look grim.
5. Josh Shaw
A lot of the same reasons that Russell is in roster trouble also apply for Shaw. Now a fourth-year player, the former USC Trojan has been a versatile corner-safety hybrid in his time with the Bengals, but has never really stood out at either position.
With two more corners and another safety added, a couple of whom also have the versatility to play multiples spots in the backend, it isn’t looking good for Shaw’s roster chances. He will have to shine during training camp and preseason in order to even have a chance at a roster spot.
The last one or two spots at defensive back will be a very tight battle and may end up forcing the Bengals to carry eleven defensive backs instead of their usual ten.
Which Bengals do you think won’t make it to Week 1?